'Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman Talks the Perils of War

"It was a Trojan Horse filled with zombies -- you move in, you check some things out and then you retreat," the executive producer tells THR in our weekly postmortem.
Gene Page/AMC
"The Walking Dead's" Andrew Lincoln

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's "Home" episode of The Walking Dead.]

Consider the score tied on AMC's The Walking Dead.

During Sunday's "Home" episode, Rick continued to see visions of Lori (hello again, Sarah Wayne Callies, all dressed in white) while a charged Glenn attempted to take the fight with the Governor into his own hands.

Speaking of the Governor (David Morrissey), the leader of Woodbury enacted what can only be the first part of his plan to exact revenge on Rick's group at the prison in a bloody gunfight that left poor Axel (Lew Temple) dead. During the gunfight, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) receives some incredibly well-timed help from Daryl (Norman Reedus) -- who took a stand with his brother and returned with Merle (Michael Rooker) to the prison. 

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Robert Kirkman, on whose comics the AMC zombie drama is based, to get the scoop on the Dixon brothers' return, the battle rounds between Rick and the Governor and how the attack will impact everyone's favorite beleaguered sheriff.

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THR: Maggie (Lauren Cohan) pushes Glenn (Steven Yeun) away. Is she trying to protect him by pushing him away?
Kirkman: There is a little bit of that going on. These are two characters that are very much in love, but have both suffered extreme trauma being put into a situation where they're pretty much helpless and not being able to do anything about it. It weighs on the psyche in a big way, and both of them are lashing out in ways they'll regret -- and that they wouldn't normally do -- just because they're dealing with so much trauma.

THR: Daryl and Merle were abused by their father, and the former stands up to his big brother to have them head back to the prison together. Can we expect to see Merle to follow more of his lead?
Kirkman: I like the fact that Merle is such an unknown; you never really know what he's going to do. He's certainly going back with Daryl, and what comes of that is a big question. That's the beauty of Merle: You just don't know what he's going to do at any time. He could join the group with Rick. He could go back to the Governor. He's very much an X factor.

THR: Will we learn more of the Dixon brothers' past? Might we see flashbacks to their relationship pre-apocalypse?
Kirkman: I'm not going to speak to the flashbacks, but the scene where Daryl's back, and having it be this touching moment between he and Merle, these are two very gruff characters who don't often exhibit those kind of emotions toward each other. Merle was very concerned for his brother and hadn't known that he'd endured those things. There's a little bit of history there, and you get to see another level of their relationship. There will definitely be more of that kind of stuff coming up.

THR: Daryl and Merle return just when Rick needs them most. How will Merle's presence at the prison go over with Glenn, Maggie and the rest of the group?
Kirkman: I would say not well (laughs). Merle is definitely complicit -- and all the things that happened with Glenn and, to a lesser degree, Maggie. He's not a good guy, and they know him to not be a good guy. There's going to be huge conflict inside the prison when we come back to the next episode.

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THR: Axel dies a quick and heroic death. How will that and Daryl's return affect Carol (Melissa McBride)?
Kirkman: It's important to note that sometimes the death on The Walking Dead has to be very sudden, it's not always this huge set-piece or this big to-do. People can just go as quickly as Axel went. That keeps people on their toes, and goes to illustrate exactly how dangerous things are. Carol is really being put to the test here. She's going to have Daryl, which is something of a good thing for her, but she's not having an easy time with this. It did certainly seem like there may be something brewing between her and Axel, but that was taken away from her. So we'll see how she deals with that moving forward.

THR: The Governor has now attacked Woodbury. How will that push Rick and Glenn to take action?
Kirkman: There's no question right now as to whether or not Woodbury is going to attack and whether they are a formidable force. Those questions have been answered. That was very much a show of force and a test in a lot of ways, more than it was an actual attack. It was a Trojan Horse filled with zombies -- you move in, you check some things out and then you retreat. The Governor got some really good intel from that, but also, Rick and Glenn know exactly what they're up against. Things are going to be a lot more heated moving forward.

THR: How will Andrea (Laurie Holden) respond to knowing that the Governor attacked the prison?
Kirkman: This is not something she's going to be too happy about. She has this relationship with the people in the prison, and that's what we'll be exploring in the next episode. She knows that there are good people in Woodbury. It's not as cut-and-dry as people might think it is. A reunion with Rick's group is going to have a lot of tension. These were people -- from her perspective -- who left her behind, and she did have a tough winter with Michonne, and she does have conflicting emotions regarding Michonne. Things are going to be pretty interesting next episode.

THR: Could we see her attempt to play peacekeeper or just leave Woodbury?
Kirkman: It could go either way. You may have hit the nail on the head in one of those possibilities, I wouldn't want to say which (laughs). But she could go peacekeeper. She could give up. She could side with one or the other. But these are all questions that will be answered next episode.

THR: How might the Governor respond to her efforts?
Kirkman: He's extremely suspicious of her. He knows she has ties to this group that he's going after. The Governor is not an unintelligent guy; he knows how to manipulate and manage people. He's going to be pretty on top of the situation and managing it the best he can -- and whether or not he's able to foresee whatever Andrea might do, or how that's going to affect his conflict with the prison, remains to be seen. He will be using all the tools at his disposal, Milton included, to keep a stranglehold on this community.

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THR: Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Merle both earned their place in the group. Will their roles help Rick change his mind about Tyrese (Chad Coleman) and his group?
Kirkman: It's entirely possible. That's a central theme to this season: What you need in this world -- whether you need to be alone and secure or open and with people and finding more people for security. That's something that we'll be exploring quite a bit moving forward.

THR: Rick has confided in Hershel (Scott Wilson) about his visions of Lori and Shane (Jon Bernthal). Will the sharing of the news and the attack help end those?
Kirkman: It's certainly possible that it will continue to get worse. Hershel is really someone who Rick is able to confide in, and now he's someone far more aware of the situation than he was before. We know that Rick is in a bad place, and the question now is how this activates Hershel and what he does moving forward now that he has this information.

THR: Might we see Hershel turn to Carl for help managing Rick?
Kirkman: How Carl plays into all this -- with his father in the state he's in -- is going to be revealed very soon. We're going to be doing some interesting things with that guy.

What did you think of the battle between the Governor and Rick's camp? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit